British Forces in the Radfan 1 April 1964 to 30 June 1964: One of several forgotten conflicts.

British Paratrooper on the Radfan Moutains. (Paradata)

One of many forgotten conflicts since WW2: the Aden Emergency was an armed insurgency by the NLF and FLOSY against the Federation of South Arabia, a protectorate of Britain which is now part of Yemen. 

The 5000-foot Bakari Ridge which dominated the Wadi Dhubson was regarded as impregnable by the insurgents and accommodated their leadership. To capture the Wadi Dhubson members of 3 Para (3rd Battallion Parachute Regiment) scaled the mountain carrying 90lb loads and covered 11 miles during two-night marches and after a number of skirmishes and a large firefight they occupied the ridge on 24 May.

Radfan (Pradata)

Soldiers descended from the ridge on 30-foot ropes and surprised the insurgents and this was followed by a violent fire-fight and air attacks from RAF fighters and concentrated fire from the battalion broke all resistance and the insurgents withdrew leaving their dead and all their weapons behind. Villages were searched, and arms dumps destroyed. Within nine days 200 square miles of territory which had been an insurgent stronghold and had never been entered by Europeans was secured and place under government control and many insurgents had been killed.

(Paradata)

3 PARA withdrew back to Aden on 28th May having won a DSO, an MC and four additional medals, three MIDs and six CinC commendations. D Coy, 3 PARA were deployed on 6 June and remained behind for a further four weeks.


Canadian SOE Agents Frank Pickersgill and Ken Macalister

(An overview)

Frank Pickertsgill and Ken Macalister

Canadian SOE agents Frank Pickersgill and Ken Macalister parachuted into France on the night of 20 June 1943 with instructions to form a clandestine network called Archdeacon. As described in the previous post (see below) they were picked up by SOE agents Yvonne Rudellat and Pierre Culioli and their vehicle was stopped at a roadblock during which the Canadians were arrested, and the two other agents were captured after a shoot-out with German troops who recovered the Canadian’s wireless and codes hidden in a Red Cross parcel on the rear seat of the vehicle which allowed a German operator to play-back the wireless to London using the correct codes.

Whilst a German operator was sending favourable reports to London about the newly formed Archdeacon Circuit there was no reason for London to doubt they were receiving signals from Macalister and as requested sent weapons, finance and other agents by parachute to assist Archdeacon which, unbeknown to London, was in German hands and only after the war did the full story become known. After their capture Macalister and Pickersgill were repeatedly tortured for information and on 27 August they were transported to Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

On 14 September 1944, John Macalister, Frank Pickersgill along with several other agents were executed by slow strangulation with piano wire suspended from hooks in the crematorium at Buchenwald camp.

SOE Agent Yvonne Rudellat

Yvonne Rudellat was an SOE Courier who was involved in a number of operations and the following is an overview. On 20 July 1942 after crossing from Gibraltar by felucca under the cover of darkness she arrived by rowing boat on a deserted beach a few miles from Cannes. She used the cover name Jacqueline Gautier but used other identities whilst working for various networks. She took a train from Cannes to Lyon and from there took a train to Paris where she hid in the tender of the locomotive to cross the demarcation line. From Paris she went to Tours and worked for the Monkeypuzzle circuit where she organised agents and supplies to be dropped by parachute and also travelled by bicycle to liaise with scattered members of the resistance. After Monkeypuzzle was infiltrated by German agents she teamed up with SOE agent Pierre Culioli and took the cover of a married couple with the surname Leclaire and continued organising parachute drops.

Working as a married couple they picked up two Canadian SOE agents, John Macalister and Frank Pickersgill who arrived in France by Parachute a few hours previously. Culioli was driving the car, Yvonne was sitting next to him and the two Canadians were sitting in the back when they reached a roadblock in Dhuizon. The reason why the Canadians were ordered out of the car and why their covers were blown is beyond the scope of this post. After German soldiers ordered Rudellat and Culioli out of the car Culioli put the car in gear and accelerated away and soldiers started firing at them. They were quickly pursued by a vehicle full of German soldiers who were shooting at them and Yvonne was seen leaning out of the car window returning fire before slumping back on her seat after being shot in the head, shortly afterwards Culioli was shot in the leg and the car crashed into a wall. Yvonne was taken unconscious to Blois Hospital where doctors found the bullet had not entered her brain and decided it was too dangerous to remove the bullet. When she gained consciousness she was confused, did not know her name or understand why she was in France.

On 2 March she arrived at Bergen-Belson concentration camp during a typhus epidemic during which an estimated 20,000 prisoners died. Rudellat never recovered her memory and eight days after the camp was liberated Yvonne Rudellat died of typhus and dysentery and was buried in a mass grave along with 5000 other bodies.

French Resistance during the Battle of Vercors

A good video documentary on the Battle of Vercors from an American presenter. My only criticism is there was no mention of SOE who had been operating in the area for sometime and the OSS units he mentioned were not always required by the Maquis.

Victoria Cross awarded posthumously on the testimony from an enemy officer.

(Royal New Zealand Air Force) VC awarded solely on the testimony from the enemy.

Nola Trigg showing her children, John and Wayne, their late fathers’ medals, the Victoria Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross. A photograph of their father can be seen on the wireless behind them. New Zealander, Flying Officer Allan Trigg was a Liberator pilot attached to 200 Squadron RAF Coastal command who was posthumously awarded the VC on the testimony of the captain of the German U-boat he sunk.

Oberleutant Klemens Schamong explained:


“We opened deadly fire from our ‘two 20mm cannons’ and the first salvo at a distance of 2000m set the plane on fire.
Despite this, Trigg continued his attack. He did not give up as we thought and hoped. His plane flew deeper and deeper. We could see our deadly fire piercing through his hull. Such a gallant fighter as Trigg would have been decorated in Germany with the highest medal or order”.
(RNZAF Official photo)

Original wartime caption: One day in August 1943 Flying Officer Trigg of the R.N.Z.A.F. undertook, as captain and pilot, a patrol in a Liberator although he had not previously made any operational sorties in that type of aircraft. After searching for eight hours a surfaced U- boat was sighted. Flying Officer Trigg immediately prepared to attack. During the approach, the aircraft received many hits from the submarine’s anti-aircraft guns and burst into flames, which quickly enveloped the tail. There could have been no hesitation or doubt in Trigg’s mind. He maintained his course in spite of the already precarious condition of his aircraft and executed a masterly attack. Skimming over the U-boat at less than 50 feet with anti-aircraft fire entering his opened bomb doors. Flying Officer Trigg dropped his bombs on and around the U-boat where they exploded with devastating effect. A short distance further on the Liberator dived into the sea with her gallant captain and crew. The U-boat sank within twenty minutes and some of her crew were picked up later in a rubber dinghy that had broken loose from the Liberator. Flying Officer Trigg, missing believed killed, has been awarded the V.C. (Picture issued 1943). (IWM)

Artist’s impression based on account

André Bloch: SOE Wireless Operator

On the night of 6/7 September 1941 André Bloch parachuted from a converted RAF Whitley bomber onto farmland near Tendu north of Argenton-sur-Greuse in France and after burying his parachute and protective clothing made his way to Paris to become the wireless operator of a clandestine circuit called AUTOGIRO commanded by another SOE agent called Pierre de Vomécourt.

From 15 September to 12 November 1941 Bloch was the only wireless operator in northern France and all the wireless detection capabilities of the Germans were being used to track him down. Although aware of the dangers Bloch was in regular contact with London.

Sometime in October he suspected his safe house was under surveillance and with the assistance of Pierre de Vomécourt he moved to another safe house in Le Mans and after his wireless was delivered by a member of the resistance Bloch contacted London and arranged for weapons and sabotage stores to be dropped to AUTOGIRO. This message dated 12 November 1941 was the last signal received from Andre Bloch.

As was standard procedure home station (the wireless station in England) kept his wireless channel open and the frequency was monitored until confirmation was received of his arrest. According to de Vomécourt Bloch was denounced by a neighbour for being a Jew but it is now believed he remained too long on the air at the same address. 

His wireless and codes were never used by the Germans to play back his set to London and supports the belief 27-year-old André Bloch refused to pass his codes to the Gestapo whilst being tortured. Sometime in February 1942 Bloch was executed by firing squad at Mont-Valerian.